Nothing says 'Summer' 'round these parts better than whipping up a batch of my maternal grandather's Central North Carolina pulled pork barbecue and red slaw, which we always enjoyed throughout the summers when I was a child and teenager. I have continued to prepare several batches for us each summer since the Grand Duchess and I set up house together in 2005. Can you believe it? We will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary on June 24th this year!
Anyway, Granddaddy came from the country (in those days) just outside Lexington, North Carolina in the Piedmont part of the state, and so this is an authentic recipe handed down to me directly from him. I learned it by watching him and good ol' Mom when I was a boy and later doing it myself rather than through a written recipe.
Interestingly, there are regional variations on how to prepare the BBQ and the accompanying sauce throughout the American South. For example, parts of Georgia, I have been told, prepare a mustard-based sauce for their pork barbecue. And of course, when you get to Texas and Oklahoma, what they mean by barbecues, very often, is beef rather than pork. The subject of BBQ is a fascinating subject all on its own, but I digress!
One important point to remember with this Piedmont North Carolina variety of pork barbecue -- the red sauce is for dribbling over your sandwiches when you sit down to eat. Do not use it to baste the meat! You'll make your grill all yucky and impossible to clean. You baste the meat as it cooks, about once every 45 minutes, with a separate solution of apple vinegar and course-ground black pepper, which imparts a tangy flavor to the meat and also helps to dry it out. A German chemist friend of ours, "Uncle Robert" to the Young Master, explained how this works in more detail to me several years ago, but I'll spare you those particular details here. ;-) Look for additional photographs of the pork BBQ preparation process as I work through it today.
The shoulder about one hour along just before basting with the apple vinegar and black pepper solution.
Before chopping. . .
During chopping. There is no fast way to do this. Blenders and food processors create more problems than they solve as far chopping the cabbage finely enough and NOT saving you time in the end.
Chopping all done.
Mixing the first batch of red sauce for the slaw. It's a seat of the pants kind of thing. . .
The slaw is all finished! It took about an hour to reach this point.
The extra red sauce goes into a squeeze bottle and a cream pitcher. We'll use up the latter first.
Fresh of the grill! In about two hours, I'll begin pulling the pork off the bone and into thumb-sized pieces, or slightly smaller, and then we'll eat. In the meantime, the Grand Duchess will prepare her hushpuppies and a big pitcher of Lipton iced tea, seasoned with spearmint and sweetened with a cup of sugar. This is how we always drank it during my formative years. I grew up thinking that the rest of the world drank similar, but it seems like everyone else has only begun to do so during the last dozen years. Now, you can't swing a dead cat without running into what they now call "sweet tea" although what you get in restaurants never tastes quite right.
The pulling is all done.
Waiting on the hushpuppies.
Dinner is served! Granny always maintained that once you had fixed a meal, you weren't very hungry for it, and that was true of yours truly yesterday evening. I was only able to eat one and a bit of the second sandwich, the slaw, and four hushpuppies. When I was much younger, I could easily inhale three or four of the sandwiches. Well, gluttony is never pretty, and we enjoyed our meal all the same even the Young Master, who was eager to get back to his sandbox and other backyard activities. Leftovers this evening, and that's fine by me.